(NEPA) of 1969. The P&S required water project alternatives to be evaluated in relation to their impacts on the two principal planning objectives, NED and EQ. The other two objectives could also be assessed but were not required for all projects.
The P&G represented an important departure from the P&S in that they required only one alternative to be developed during project planning, the NED option. Other alternatives may be developed but are not required. The NED account is the water development alternative designed to maximize a project's marginal benefits and is to be "consistent with protecting the Nation's environment, pursuant to national environmental statutes, applicable executive orders, and other Federal planning requirements" (U.S. Water Resources Council, 1983). Details of how the NED plan is to be calculated are provided within the P&G. The other critical difference between the two planning documents is that the P&G serve merely as recommended guidance that has no legal force, whereas the P&S constituted requirements.
The P&G define a six-step planning process, which guides both the reconnaissance and feasibility planning stages. Those six steps are:
These six steps are not necessarily applied sequentially in Corps planning; rather, the activities of problem definition, goal setting, and comparing project alternatives can be conducted simultaneously and recur throughout project planning.
The concept of "planning" defies exact description but is explained in a Corps Institute for Water Resources (IWR) document (Yoe and Orth, 1996) as: " . . . the deliberate social or organizational activity of developing an optimal strategy for solving problems and achieving a desired set of objectives." Although technical analyses are part of the planning process, the Corps' notion of planning extends beyond technical activities such as siting and design. The Corps seeks to solve water related problems through a structured, rational planning approach.
The Corps' studies and projects typically originate with a request for assistance from a community with a water resource problem beyond its means to address. They can also originate within the Corps, which may identify a water resource problem or opportunity. Before the Corps can get involved, it needs two types of authority from the Congress: study authority and budget authority. A study authority allows the Corps to investigate the problem. Once this is granted, the budget authority to spend federal funds can be provided in an annual appropriations act passed by Congress.
If there is no authority for the Corps to study the problem, a congressional member may request a study authority from the Senate (Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure) or the House of Representatives (Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment). Once congressional approval is obtained, the